The Lone Star State, a No-Fly Zone? Why Texas Dropped Its Anti-TSA ‘Groping’ Bill

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Although Texas is notorious for advocating for states’ rights — Gov. Rick Perry has openly suggested secession — state officials had to drop a bid to prevent TSA agents from conducting “invasive searches” after the federal government threatened to shut down all airports in Texas.

Last week the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for TSA agents to “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly [touch] the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of the other person, including touching through clothing, or touching the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person.” But as the Texas Senate debated the bill Wednesday, support for its passage began to thin. Why? Because the federal government had intervened to warn that if the bill passed, all airports in Texas could get shut down.

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Texas Sen. Dan Patrick, a prominent conservative and a sponsor of the bill, chastised Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for submitting to pressure from the U.S. State Department and U.S. Justice Department. After realizing that he would not have enough votes to pass the “groping” bill, as it has been dubbed, Patrick withdrew it saying, “There was a time in this state … where we stood up to the federal government and we did not cower to rules and policies that invaded the privacy of Texans.” He also called it “a case of the federal government bullying Texas” although he seemed to succumb to the pressure himself after having earlier said, “I don’t cave in to heavy handed threats by the federal government.”

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Texas Congressman David Simpson, the author of the bill, expressed anger toward the federal government for intervening on state matters saying, “They’re basically saying, unless you allow us to grope your genitals, you can’t fly.” About 100 people protested the Senate’s failure to pass the bill.

A report in the Texas Tribune suggested that some state senators were looking for a way to delay the effective date of the bill to prevent the feds from shutting down Texas airports. But it was unclear whether a later debate to revive the bill would garner the necessary number of votes for passage.

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